Maryland Supports Research Professorship at John Hopkins University

University raised matching funds to promote research and entrepreneurship through Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative

BALTIMORE, MD (March 12, 2024) – The Maryland Department of Commerce joined Johns Hopkins University in endowing $2.5 million to fund a new research professorship. The endowment was made through the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEIF), a state program created to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields at colleges and universities. The school raised a total of $1.25 million in private funding for the position, and Maryland Commerce approved a matching grant of $1.25 million to support the endowment.

Johns Hopkins University received the award to support the Gilbert Otto Endowed Professorship in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The professorship will help to retain and support the research of Dr. Radamés JB Cordero in the groundbreaking field of astromycology, the study of earth-derived fungi in space.

“Maryland Commerce is thrilled to once again partner with Johns Hopkins University to support innovative research with strong commercialization potential,” said Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson. “This E-Nnovation grant will help fund pioneering research that links organisms in the soil beneath our feet with the future of space travel.”

Researchers will investigate the role of fungi and fungal model systems in transforming space biotechnologies, understanding ecosystem resilience, and combating public health risks while contributing to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and positively impacting economic development in Maryland. Fungi could prove both beneficial and harmful in space, with potential applications that include fighting infectious disease, sustainable food production, and efficient energy production; however, fungi have already shown their ability to colonize a spacecraft, threatening vital equipment as well as the health of astronauts.

“The mission of the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health is to advance fundamental knowledge of pathogens and host-microbe interactions, train scientists to conduct rigorous, ethical research, and develop interventions to improve public health. Dr. Cordero’s work opens exciting avenues of research in understanding fungal biology, ecology, and the potential applications of fungal-based biotechnologies in space travel,” said Johns Hopkins University Vice Provost for Research Denis Wirtz. “This award, matched with a generous private donation, affirms Johns Hopkins’ position at the forefront of science discovery and translation for real-world solutions. We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with Maryland Commerce in funding this research and bolstering the state’s robust research ecosystem.”

The Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative was created by the General Assembly during the 2014 legislative session and has provided more than $79.25 million in funding to leverage more than $89 million in private donations. The funding can be used to pay salaries of newly endowed department chairs, staff, and support personnel in designated scientific and technical fields of study; fund related research fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students; and purchase lab equipment and other basic infrastructure and equipment.

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